When last I was in the borough of Manhattan, after ramen, after doughnuts, after wines from the Cher, after meeting Kermit, finally there was time to get down to more serious business (aka, more wine and food) at The Ten Bells.
Over the course of the night, there was much talk of the Arbois wines of Annie and Philippe Bornard. I'd first tried one of the Bornards' wines in the same spot, not more than a few months earlier, and I enjoyed it, very much as a part of the moment rather than via any kind of deep, analytical dissection (though that wine seems to perform relatively well in a more clinical scenario, too). In any case, the two guys in the photo at top-right were up in arms as to the relative merits of the Bornard wines. Hell, it was all I could do to tear them apart. Seriously though, after only a couple of encounters, I'm hardly set yet to pronounce upon Bornard — not that I'm taken to that kind of thing in the first place. But so far, so good. The wines may not have the elegance of Puffeney's or the profundity of those from Houillon/Overnoy, but those I've tried thus far are at least savory and enjoyable.
Arbois Pupillin Trousseau "Le Ginglet," Annie et Philippe Bornard 2006
$27. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Savio Soares Selections, Manhasset, New York.
If my linguistics research is correct, "le ginglet" is the nominative singular form of an archaic French word, "ginglar," used to describe a wine that's at least a little sour. It's an apt if somewhat overstated term in this case, as the wine does offer up a core of tart cherry fruit. It pours the pale color of dried rose petals in the glass, a tone echoed by the tea-like feel of the wine on the palate — very light yet firmly tannic, even slightly astringent. On the nose, wild cherries again dominate, backed up by the scent of persimmons and a sense of twigginess. Even though there's not much here in the way of screaming fruit, the wine has a freshness and appeal that balances its slight austerity. In spite of its initially firm spine, this is really defined primarily by its delicacy. It's more serious-seeming than the Ploussard "Point Barre" I drank during my last bout at The Ten Bells, yet it's still well suited to casual enjoyment.
With time in the glass, out came more aromas and nuance: sweet earth, orange oil, even a light dusting of bitter cocoa powder. "Le Ginglet" even held up quite well into its third day, softening up yet simultaneously taking on a darker, spicier and warmer feel, the aromas of orange oil becoming even more apparent than on D1.
So, on top of all that night's Bornard wine diatribe and duologue (which even trickled over into a very much less animated brunch session at Blaue Gans the following day), there's the question of the Bornards' label design. At first glance or two, I didn't like it; the simple, naive design made me think of a youngster's first awkward attempts at graphic design.
The fact that the fox on the label is almost certainly meant to be Reynard, the omnipresent trickster figure, managed to escape me until much later. Excusable, you say? Not so much in my mind, especially given the amount of time I spent in Chaucer seminars through my undergrad and grad school years. I expect that Philippe Bornard (or perhaps it was Annie?) selected that design with an eye to satire, a constant in the tales in which Reynard the Fox figures as an anthropomorphic player. Wisdom, resourcefulness and playfulness all probably figure in to the design decision, too. Given that Reynard's satiric edge was almost always pointed at the aristocracy and/or the clergy, the foxy critter has even been considered by some interpreters to be a hero of the working class. A final gesture to the winegrowers' intention that their produce be enjoyed by all rather than worshiped by the few, perhaps. And, of course, it can't hurt that Reynard rhymes with Bornard....
Whatever the case, my take on the label has now changed. The more I look at it, the more I like it — both for all that literary innuendo and for its almost garish simplicity.
As Reynard snuck up on me, so the following song crept into the back of my mind as I wrote the words above. Warning: if you're not a fan of over-the-top drum solos, you may want to fast-forward to about the 3:20 point.
On the other hand, if that was only enough to whet your whistle, check out the following clip from the classic but far too short-lived sketch comedy/variety show, Fridays. The show may have been meant to compete with Saturday Night Live but was really most memorable for the quality of its musical acts. I still remember seeing this when it originally aired in December 1981. Definite shock and awe.
(As always, subscribers may need to click through to the blog in order to view the video clips.)